HUNTERSVILLE – There’s a myriad of ways an organization can give back to its community.

Huntersville Family Fitness and Aquatics sses a variety of ways. 

HFFA’s work with its annual kids’ and adults’ triathlons – races that include running, biking and swimming – serves a greater purpose than just competition, Executive Director Dee Jetton said.

The goal is to encourage area youth to be physically active and fit, and to teach them there’s more to modern-day athletics than traditional stick-and-ball sports.

HFFA’s kids’ triathlon series, which is comprised of four events – one each on April 24, May 16, June 13 and July 18 – began in 2009, one year after HFFA’s adult sprint triathlon event first took place.

The adult triathlon is dedicated to another cause: raising awareness of the East Huntersville Revitalization Organization, a local group designed to help the East Huntersville community prosper.

A portion of the proceeds from the sprint triathlon will go to HFFA-supported programs to benefit East Huntersville residents. The triathlon route goes through East Huntersville.

“Lots of people don’t realize it’s very easy for that neighborhood to disappear with all the growth around them,” Jetton said. “The revitalization organization needs more awareness about unemployment, healthcare and job training in East Huntersville.”

“The sport of triathlon is one of the fastest-growing sports in the country,” she continued. “Our key belief is that any child in our community can run, bike and swim. If you engage kids at an early age, those things become activities they can do their entire lives. It also assists in childhood obesity.”

Area triathlons also benefit the business landscape.

“If you look at the bike shops we have in the area, they’ve grown,” Jetton said.

“It’s been helpful to our business community. More people are buying running shoes and biking equipment because they see the value in being active, and businesses enjoy the opportunity to serve kids who participate in these triathlons. It’s good for our local economy.”

Like the sport on a national basis, local triathlons should only expand in the future.

According to a June 2012 USA Triathlon report, the number of USAT members grew from 15,194 in 1994 to 29,886 by 2001. Their 2012 membership had reached the 155,000 mark halfway through last year.

The adults’ sprint triathlon began as an event designed for any adult, regardless of skill level, to get into the sport. In addition to benefitting East Huntersville, it’s been a warm-up for triathlon competitors and a formidable challenge for newcomers.

The kids’ triathlons, expected to draw 1,100-1,200 participants per summer for the four events, are open for ages 4-14. They have become a regional attraction with participants from Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and the Midwest. 

But 80 percent of the participants come from the Lake Norman and Charlotte areas.

The dual benefits of fighting childhood obesity and helping raise awareness for East Huntersville make the events a worthwhile cause, HFFA triathlon trainer Kathy Goody said.

“One big thing about our programs is we’re trying to include everyone (in the community),” she said.

“We’re going to try to continue our reach in growing the programs.”

Want to learn more?

The first kids’ triathlon is April 27. Registration costs $25 if you sign up before April 24, and $30 thereafter. Visit www.hffa.com for more details on the kids’ and adults’ triathlons.